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FINKELSTEIN Report - The Australian Press Council history

FINKELSTEIN Report - The Australian Press Council history

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Published by Tony Yegles
REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO THE MEDIA - The Australian Press Council history
REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO THE MEDIA - The Australian Press Council history

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Published by: Tony Yegles on Mar 18, 2013
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Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation
221
 
authoritarianism and risks undermining democracy. We recommend that self-regulationshould be retained for the press, while recognising that it must be seen to be effective if calls for statutory intervention are to be resisted.
 
8.62 Of the 25 countries deemed to have the greatest freedom of the press, 21 have systems of self-regulation.8.63 This is a weighty list of reasons. It is, though, rather one-sided. The South African report saysthat after looking into the matter ‘there is no convincing argument for the State to getinvolved in media regulation’
. This rather absolute conclusion is difficult to reconcile withthe failure of self-regulation in the United Kingdom, the reason for the repeated calls forstatutory regulation in that country, the recommendation that there be statutory regulationof the press in Ireland and the failure of self-regulation in English speaking countries.
The Australian Press Council
8.64 The APC was established in 1976 as a voluntary non-profit association
. Subsequently, itbecame an incorporated association. The history of its establishment is not without interest.8.65 The idea of a press council was first mooted in Australia in 1942, during the Second WorldWar. An Australian Newspaper Board was established in 1944, but only met once between1944 and 1953.8.66 In 1954 the Australian Journalists’ Association (AJA) attempted to establish a press councilpartly in response to the formation of the British General Council of the Press and partly inresponse to a series of local press mergers. The attempt failed. During the next few yearsvarious proposals for self-regulatory or statutory bodies were discussed by the AJA andfederal and state Labor parties. This was to no avail. O’Malley explained that ‘during the
30
Culture, Media and Sport Committee (United Kingdom)
Self Regulation of the Press
, House of Commons Paper 375,Session 2006–07 (2007) cited in Culture, Media and Sport Committee (United Kingdom)
Press standards. privacy and libel 
House of Commons Paper No 362-I, Session 2009–10 (2010) 117.
31
Press Council (South Africa)
Review of the Press Council of South Africa
32
The following discussion is drawn mainly from Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation,Function and Future ( 
Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996); See also Denis Joseph Andrew Muller, Media Accountability in aLiberal Democracy—An Examination of the Harlot’s Prerogative (PhD Thesis, University of Melbourne, 2005) 149–171.
 
Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation
222
 ensuing years, the absence of a Labor government federally, or in any major state, ensuredthat the issue remained on the sidelines, and it was only the prospect of a federal Laborgovernment that was to promote the issue back into the realms of possibility’
.8.67 In its March 1969 issue of 
The Journalist 
the AJA reported that its General Secretaryconsidered a Press Council should be set up and that the AJA had, in fact, made frequentapplications to state and federal governments
. This view was supported by Nigel Bowen,the then Attorney-General. Speaking at the Fifth Summer School of Professional Journalismon 7 February 1969 Bowen stated:
If all journalists observed the AJA Code of Ethics there could be few genuine cases of complaint by politicians, or anyone else.However, I should point out there is a gap. If your work is altered by the proprietors and appears in a form which would breach the code, it seems there is no remedy.This leads me to suggest that it is worth considering whether we should not follow theUnited Kingdom and have a Press council in Australia, with representatives of the proprietors, and a lay chairman.
 
8.68 Justice Else-Mitchell of the NSW Supreme Court supported a council with a statutory basisand judicial powers. Citing the need for a new approach to the law of defamation, and notingthe years of waiting before a verdict is obtained, Justice Else-Mitchell said that some in thelegal profession would call it ‘instant justice, but speed of redress was the essence of any justlegal system—justice delayed is justice denied’
.
33
Pat O’Malley, ‘Regulating Contradictions: The Australian Press Council and the ‘Dispersal of Social Control’’ (1987)21(1)
Law & Society Review 
89, 91 cited in Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation,Function and Future
(Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996) 6.
34
 
The Journalist 
, March 1969, cited in Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation, Functionand Future
(Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996) 9.
35
Nigel Bowen (Speech delivered at the Fifth Summer School of Professional Journalists, 7 February 1969) cited inDeborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation, Function and Future
(Twentieth AnniversaryPapers, 1996) 9.
36
 
The Mercury 
(Hobart), 2 December 1969, 2 cited in Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? ItsFormation, Function and Future
(Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996) 9.
 
Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation
223
 8.69 The first approach reviving discussion of a press council appears to have been made in aletter from the AJA to B Osborne, Secretary of the Australian Newspaper Council (ANC)
.Written on 24 May 1971 this letter requested a meeting between an AJA deputation, theANC, John Fairfax & Sons Ltd and Regional Dailies Ltd to discuss the question of establishing aCouncil of the Press to mirror Britain’s Press Council. The ANC advised that its members werealmost unanimously opposed to a Press Council
. However, most felt that, as long as nocommitment was involved, no harm could be caused by such a meeting
.8.70 At the meeting the AJA asserted its single aim was to protect the highest standards of newspaper performance and practice. Probably closer to the truth were two paragraphs inthe front page article of the March 1972 issue of 
The Journalist 
:
The AJA directed the attention of Press proprietors to the provisions of the AJA Code of Ethics, and the machinery for investigation by the AJA of complaints of code breaches.No comparable machinery exists for investigation of complaints by the public against thenewspapers, without recourse to the law courts.
 
8.71 The proprietors stood firm against a council. The only individuals who stood out were RanaldMacdonald and Graham Perkin from David Syme & Co. Macdonald could see the sense of aPress Council and openly spoke in its favour. Perkin, editor of 
The Age
, stated:
My great fear is that unless the newspaper industry establishes some form of self-surveillance … then we will one day, perhaps soon, have surveillance forced upon us by Government.
 
37
Letter from Syd Crosland to the Australian Newspapers Council, John Fairfax & Sons Ltd and Regional Dailies Ltd, 24 May1971 cited in Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation, Function and Future
(TwentiethAnniversary Papers, 1996) 10.
38
Sir Frank Packer pointed out the failure of the Newspaper Board and termed any meeting as ‘unnecessary’: Letter fromSir Frank Packer to Australian Newspapers Council, 20 December 1971 cited in Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the AustralianPress Council? Its Formation, Function and Future
(Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996) 23.
39
Letter from Australian Newspapers Council to the Australian Journalists Association, 29 June 1971 Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation, Function and Future
(Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996) 10.
40
 
The Journalis
t, March 1972, 1 cited in Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation, Functionand Future
(Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996) 10.
41
Pat O’Malley, ‘Regulating Contradictions: The Australian Press Council and the ‘Dispersal of Social Control’’ (1987)21(1)
Law & Society Review 
89, 92 cited in Deborah A Kirkman,
Whither the Australian Press Council? Its Formation,Function and Future
(Twentieth Anniversary Papers, 1996) 10.

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